Seven Rules of Yoga

I promised a yoga post. Granted, it was a long time ago, but let’s not dwell on that, shall we?

Aren’t you excited?

No?

WHY NOT?

You should be. I am.

First of all, I’m NOT a yoga teacher. I’ve had no formal training, I’ve only been to a handful of classes in the last 10 years, and I am in no way equipped to tell you how to properly do yoga. So don’t take anything I say as sacred. Everything in this post is from my own personal experience. Yours will be different, because YOU are different.

I’ve talked a lot about my new-found love of yoga. Unfortunately for you, I now think everyone should love yoga – or at least try yoga – so now you get to suffer through a post All.About.Yoga.

YAY!!!!!!!

Ah, yoga. I started doing it because A) I needed a “lazy” workout, and B) I realized I could barely touch my toes. Yup. 29 years old and could barely reach them. Definitely not cool. I took a class in college, so I knew the basics…but I also knew there was no way I was getting my overweight, inflexible self into a yoga class now. Enter YouTube. More on that in a moment.

So I started. Slowly. Very slowly.

I really really really wish I’d taken pictures when I first started, because there’s nothing like photographic evidence to show progress. But I didn’t. And really…..yoga is about so much more than physical progress. So maybe it’s a good thing I don’t have those pictures.

I promise I’m going to tell you more about the what and how. But first, you need to know the why. Hang with me.

Disclaimer: These are MY seven rules of yoga. If you hate them, I’m ok with that. If you love them, I’m even more ok with that. 

Here’s the First Rule of Yoga:  It’s Your Yoga.yoga_quote_is_the_journey_of_the_self_through_the_self_to_the_self

Search Google, and you’ll find thousands of reasons why you should do yoga. You’ll also find thousands of reasons you shouldn’t. Your reasons for starting yoga will be your own, and your reasons for making yoga a practice will be your own. Yoga is intensely personal. Don’t laugh…it is. Whether you spend a lot of time on the mat, or a little, whether you practice in silence or with music, your time on the mat…if you stick with it…will turn into one of the best parts of your day.

That leads me to the Second Rule of Yoga….Be Open. 

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If you go into yoga thinking it’s dumb, or hocus pocus, or new-age bullshit…well, you’re not in the right place to be on the mat. Will every practice lead you to enlightenment? Probably not. Will every practice make you feel better? Hopefully, but not always. Will every practice get you closer to peace? Yes.

I told you why I started. In other posts I’ve talked a little about what I gained. I gained a sense of calm, of serenity, of balance. I started feeling more confident in my body, and I started standing up taller. I now seek yoga when I’m feeling stressed or anxious or angry. It makes me feel connected to the earth, to my body, to the world around me. It’s a feeling I can’t adequately describe.

Physically, I can touch my toes, and then some. My muscles are longer and leaner, and I look better. I’m less focused on my cellulite, and more focused on the fact that I can almost do King Pigeon. Those lumpy legs? Sure, I wish they looked better, but I know how far they’ve come….and I know how far they’ll go. I can tell when I’ve been skimping, because my body feels tight. And most amazing of all – to me at least – is the fact that my blood pressure has dropped a good 20 points, without medication, weight loss, or drastic dietary changes.

Third Rule of Yoga: Do Not Compare Yourself To Others. You are YOU.

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 If you’ve never done yoga, you’re probably not going to look anything like the flexible yogis in your videos. Deal with it. I don’t either. In fact, I’d guess that most people don’t. So you can’t touch your toes. GREAT! You’ve got something to work toward, and trust me, that rush you feel the first time you do it….nobody will ever be able to take that away from you. Touch your toes but can’t do Pigeon? No worries, it’ll come.

One of my favorite yoga instructors has a comment in one of her videos….something to the effect of “don’t compare one yoga practice to another.” Some days you’ll nail a pose, some days you’ll swear you’re a one-flippered baby seal. IT’S OK.

You didn't really think I'd put a one-flippered baby seal here, did you?

You didn’t really think I’d put a one-flippered baby seal here, did you?

And now we come to the Fourth Rule of Yoga. Invest in a good mat. 

I had a yoga mat, bought from TJ Maxx in one of those “I’m going to try a new thing” moments. It was pink and zebra print and loud and $10 and I loved it. And I think I’d used it twice in 2 years, one of those times as a sleeping pad camping. Zoe liked it too.

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If you’re just starting, the $10 TJ Maxx mat is ok. But if you really want to make yoga part of your life, you’ve got to get a decent mat. The problem with the cheap ones is, well….they’re cheap. After about 2 months of solid use, my cheapo mat started breaking down. I’d end up with pink foam all over my face. Not cute. Then I took it to class, and was sliding all over the floor. That’s just plain dangerous. Your mat shouldn’t move, because if it does, you’re going to hurt yourself.

I did a LOT of research. I asked friends and Facebook. Friends recommended Manduka…..I also read good things about Jade. You guys know by now…I’m kinda cheap. The thought of paying $50 or more for a yoga mat was just not something I was interested in. Yet, my yoga friends had had their Mandukas for years. YEARS. Jade got similar reviews. In the end, I chose the Manduka eKO Lite. I found it on sale at Active.com, for less than $35. Mine is green, and I love it to pieces. I’d happily pay full price for it if I had to do it all over again.

Having a quality mat means I don’t slip around. It also means poses are actually easier, because I don’t “stick” to my mat. There are a few things you want to consider when you look for your mat: durability, weight (if you’re only going to use it at home, this isn’t an issue, but if you’re going to take it to class, a 7lb mat is heavy as shit), cushion/thickness (especially if you have bad knees or wrists), and grip or stickiness. Some mats are better for people who sweat or do hot yoga. My particular mat has dual surfaces – I can flip it over and use the back side if I need more grip. Do your research. And then when you get one, take care of it. Buy a mat wash, or make your own.

Having said all that, the Fifth Rule of Yoga: Don’t Break the Bank

You can go absolutely crazy with yoga accessories. That’s not necessary. All you need is a mat, and truthfully, you don’t even absolutely have to have that. Seriously. You can buy a $10 yoga strap, or you can use a belt, a towel, a scarf, a dog leash….all work perfectly well (personal fave – dog leash). You can buy a $10 yoga block, or you can use a phone book, a soda box, a throw pillow, or just not go as deep into the pose. Then there are bolsters and yoga towels….pillows, rolled up blankets, and hand towels work just as well. Just be safe.

As for clothes, even I can’t deny the appeal of adorable yoga clothes. Swoon. Yeah, some of the higher quality clothes are more comfortable, don’t ride up, don’t hang down, and make yoga “happier.” They also cost $50 for a shirt, $70 for a pair of pants. Cute clothes do not a yogi make. Wear what you’ve got, and if you don’t have anything, for crying out loud go to the thrift store. Just make sure that if you’re going to yoga in public, all your parts are covered….and don’t forget to check your outfit in Downward Dog. Baggy t-shirts tend to come up over your head, just sayin’.

Speaking of yoga in public….I’m not going to tell you NOT to go to yoga class, because yoga class can be an awesome experience. It can also be terrible. Try a few before you commit to the 20-class package. Check Groupon for deals. Ask around. A lot of places will give you a free first class. And don’t forget all the free and cheap resources online (I’m getting to those). Bottom line if you do go to class…find a good instructor. A good instructor is one who pays attention to the students and corrects poses so you’re not hurting yourself.

Sixth Rule of Yoga: Enjoy It

It’s that simple. Just enjoy it. You’re doing this for you, so who cares if you don’t always do a strenuous practice? Who cares if some days you want to blast Katy Perry during your yoga routine? Who cares if you fall flat on your face because you decided to have a glass or three of wine before stepping on the mat? It happens. Keep at it.

So now you know the First Six Rules of Yoga, according to me. And if you’re one of the people reading this who are all like, come on, tell me what to do….thank you for waiting patiently.

Seventh Rule of Yoga: YouTube is Your Friend. 

Get on YouTube, and either search for yoga videos or check out some of my favorite channels:

Yoga With Adriene – She’s awesome. Tons of great routines, every level and every length. She’s also goofy and fun to listen to. I like her Yoga Flow, Travel Yoga, and Detox Yoga. She’s a yoga instructor, so she knows what she’s doing.

Tara Stiles – Another awesome instructor. I first did her 50 minute routine for weight loss. I really like that she’s got a bunch of short (under 10 minute) routines, so I can put a few of them together depending on my mood.

Gwen Lawrence – I do her Fit Body routines more than anything else. Her videos tend to be a little more of a sports-medicine focus, so she’ll have some really unique poses. And some really painful ones. She introduced me to frog pose, and I both love her and hate her for it.

Yoga Journal – I can’t NOT mention them. Tons and tons of videos. Some good, some not so good. If you’re a true beginner, a lot of their routines are easier, in my opinion.

There are tons of others – you’ll figure out soon enough who you like and who you don’t. Come back here and share them with us!

Once you’ve been doing it for a little while, you’ll figure out the poses you like and the ones you don’t get much out of. Eventually you won’t need the videos – you’ll create your own little routines. I do recommend finding an instructor at some point, just because you want to make sure you’re doing the poses correctly, but a general rule is if it hurts, stop. K?

And now…a bonus. I’m going to share my routine with you. But you’ll have to wait for it….because it’s going to take me 10 years to type it up (no, you’re not getting a video). So be patient. I promise I’ll get it done soon!!